As the United States faces the worst opioid epidemic in history, with prescription drug use reaching peak levels, more evidence continues to show that cannabis is a safe alternative to potentially dangerous or lethal pharmaceuticals.
“The potential for addiction and health risks associated with using multiple scheduled drugs places additional direct monetary and health costs on patients and healthcare systems due to an increased number of side effects, risky drug interactions, dependency, and overdose,” University of New Mexico researchers Jacob Miguel Vigil and Sarah See Stith, wrote of a study entitled “Effects of Legal Access to Cannabis on Scheduled II-V Drug Prescriptions.” The study will soon be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of American Medical Directors Association.
In 2015, more than 33,000 people fatally overdosed from opioids alone. And between 2000 and 2015, nearly 500,000 people died from prescription drug overdoses.
In this new study, however, researchers found that 34 percent of patients enrolled in a medical marijuana program stopped using all of their prescription medications, while the same could be said for only two percent of non medical marijuana patients. According to co-investigator Dr. Anthony Reeve, medical marijuana patients were not only cutting back on their opioid pain medications, but on other prescription medications, as well.
To conduct the study, the researchers used the Prescription Monitoring Program to compare 83 percent of chronic pain patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program over more than a five year period to 42 patients who were not enrolled over a two year period. They analyzed variables like pre- and post-enrollment in monthly prescription trends, different drug classes, dates patients filled prescriptions, and the prescribing providers. They also made adjustments for age and gender, finding that neither played a great role in the study outcome.
“Our current opioid epidemic is the leading preventable form of death in the United States, killing more people than car accidents and gun violence,” said researcher Jacob Miguel Vigil from the University of New Mexico. “No one has ever died from smoking too much cannabis. Therefore, the relative safety and efficacy of using cannabis in comparison to that of the other scheduled medications should be taken by the health providers and legislators, and may very well to have been considered by the patients in our study.”
Opioid pain relievers, however, aren’t the only medications that you can replace with cannabis. People also use cannabis to substitute for benzodiazepines, as well as even daily medications like Advil or nausea relief. As the known safest drug in the world, with few physiological drawbacks, cannabis is a safer alternative especially when you’re medicating alongside the use of other pharmaceuticals, drugs, or even alcohol.